Down on the Farm

Whether you’re hunting duck—or just hunting R&R—The Fork Farm offers a rustic welcome.

Fork_sign

If you love the great outdoors but don’t necessarily want to pitch a tent to enjoy it, The Fork is for you. The gorgeous property, just a little more than an hour from Charlotte in Norwood, N.C., offers pristine land teeming with wildlife—and just the right amount of creature comforts.

Spend the day shooting sporting clays, hiking 30 miles of trails, or fishing from one of three ponds on the property. You can come for the day, but to fully realize its restorative effects, stay the night. Retreat to the nine-bedroom Lodge and enjoy your favorite beer or whiskey while sitting in a rocker on the wide front porch. Swap tales of the “one that got away”—or better yet, the one you caught.

The Fork is a wing shooter’s paradise. It used to be Jim Cogdell’s private hunting preserve until he and his wife, Bernadette, an accomplished equestrian originally from Ireland, decided to share their pristine 1,600 acres with the public. They also donated a conservation easement to the Catawba Lands Conservancy to ensure this land would be protected in perpetuity.

Cogdell, a committed conservationist and member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, bought this land at the junction of the Pee Dee and Rocky rivers in 1999. It’s historically significant (there are tales that George Washington slept here), unspoiled, and well-tended.

Today, The Fork is a rifle hunting and equestrian facility, a retreat center and bed and breakfast. It’s probably best known for its sporting clay courses. (Garden & Gun named it one of the South’s best.) There’s a 12-station large-gauge course and a seven-station small-gauge course, a 60-foot tower and loads of picturesque, rolling hills.

Austin Kiker, a shooter himself who also helps manage the property, says the 11 guest rooms sell out every weekend during duck hunting season. It’s easy to see why. They’re rustic and comfortable, but without a smidgen of pretense. While you’re hunting or shooting clays, the attentive staff is at your service.

But at night, you’re left alone to enjoy the quiet. Breakfast—tasty sausage biscuits in the freezer, fresh fruit and yogurt in the fridge, and fresh muffins and coffee on the counter—is left for you in the kitchen.

The Fork is such a safe haven, the front door of the Lodge doesn’t even lock from the outside.

The land is pristine—and a dedicated full-time staff of nearly 20 works hard to keep it that way. Cogdell and his team want it to look its best for guests, but the staff also works hard to ensure the land is hospitable to wildlife. The deer herd is closely monitored, and the privately owned horses live the easy life. The stables are exquisite.

The grand building has 15 roomy stalls under its vaulted ceiling. Each has an automatic waterer, so the horse is never without a fresh supply. You almost expect a butler to appear with carrots and sugar cubes on a silver platter.

It’s not impossible. One of the most stunning features of the barn is the full kitchen and dining room under its roof. The kitchen is available to rent for parties, dinners, and events. Guests can prepare meals themselves or choose to bring in a caterer. The look is “refined rusticity” and is completed by mounted deer and elk heads—and other taxidermied animals from coyotes to bobcats—high atop the walls.

The recently opened Carriage House next door to the stable has two bedrooms and its own back patio with a fire pit. The smaller of the two lodging facilities sleeps four and offers sunset views across the pasture.

Should you make the trip from Charlotte, ignore your GPS on the approach when the disembodied voice instructs you to turn off the paved road. Keep driving. Fork Road dead ends at The Fork Farm.

And that’s right where your relaxation begins.